Monday, October 9, 2017
Americans Are Free to Protest
A couple of years ago, I read an article from a recent immigrant from China. She was amazed that in America, one could legally burn the American flag. In China, she would have been executed by the government with no trial for burning the Chinese flag. She now lived in a country, the United States, that was so strong that without fear citizens could speak out against their country and government. She wanted to live in this kind of country.
In contrast, in Nazi Germany, common citizens were expected to give the extended right arm salute and pronounce “Heil Hitler” to each other as a matter of greeting. The straighter you extended your arm and firmness of your voice the more patriotism you displayed. Not following this ritual, at a minimum you would be publically ridiculed and it was not uncommon to be beaten by a mob, or arrested for suspicion of being a traitor. German citizens, blinded with nationalism or the fear to express otherwise, provided the power to Hitler and the NAZI party... and you know the rest of that story.
I think the most important ideal that this country has is freedom. The freedom to make choices, to express opinions, to peacefully protest or exercise civil disobedience towards policies or the government. And when we feel that the government or country is not living up to ideals and principles of what we are supposed to be about, we have not only the freedom, but the obligation to express that something is wrong and it needs to be fixed. There are many examples of this in our country’s history, when citizens joined together to right a wrong. One example are the marches and demonstrations of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, protesting state governments that legally allowed segregation and other racial injustices, and a federal government that for many years turned a blind eye.
When I teach civics in high school, I emphasize that the freedoms in the1st Amendment of the US Constitution are the most important of all the amendments. Each of these freedoms is why the American colonies revolted against the English government – every one of these freedoms had been denied to the colonists, even though they were loyal British subjects. When these freedoms and rights are denied to us, then we no longer have a United States of America.
When I was a senior in high school, my classmates knew what I stood for. I knew that I wanted a career in the military, to serve and support my country. My classmates knew that I supported the Vietnam war – especially when one Sunday night with another “war monger” friend, we did a recon raid onto the school roof and hung a banner in the court yard proclaiming “Bomb Hanoi.” All knew who did it when they arrived at school Monday morning. When I was asked why one of my closest friends was a radical “hippie” and another a conscientious objector to all wars, I explained that it was because I wanted to defend a country that allows its citizens to disagree; both of my friends were true in their convictions and I was proud of them.
When, then presidential candidate Obama was chastised for not wearing an American Flag pin he explained that he did not think it was necessary to wear a pin to express patriotism or loyalty – instead it was your actions. I understood exactly what he meant as I did not wear a flag pin either for the same reason. It was and still more important to me that people know who I am and what I stand for – by observing my actions and demonstrations of my pride in being an American – not by wearing a piece of metal or plastic on my lapel, or a bumper sticker next to a car’s filthy exhaust pipe. Patriotism is actions and spirit, not jewelry, cloth, or stickers. When I choose, I do wear on the lapel of my coat an American Flag and Eagle, Globe, and Anchor; usually for an occasion or ceremony where I would normally have worn my uniform when on active duty. Of course, both of my biceps are adorned with my Marine “tats.”
I choose to stand for the National Anthem and salute the passing color guard during a parade. When I lead my high school classes in the Pledge of Allegiance I stand tall and straight as if on a parade field. When there are students that want to talk during the pledge, generally it is only because they are talkative lazy teenagers and they have not settled down to begin the school day yet, not as any protest. I instruct them that one of the great things about this country is that we have the freedom of expression and choose whether they want to recite the pledge to the flag, but I expect – require – them to remain silent out of respect for their classmates that choose to recite the pledge. I remind them that many American citizens, such as myself and others have served or are presently serving in the military, some in combat, to protect their rights to make choices and express their views. This usually clicks with them, gets them thinking, and I notice that next time all is well. They realize that they have choosen to stand and recite the pledge because they want to, not because it is demanded of them. In the same way, after the pledge we have a “moment of silence.” I also ask that again, that all of us out of respect for our classmates to remain silent for those that choose to privately pray, meditate or contemplate, or day dream.
So, when I see our so called president screaming that those that do not stand for the National Anthem should be beat, and demand that NFL football players should be fired for the same, I am reminded of a fascist dictator, I think of the examples of the Chinese immigrant amazed at our freedoms and German Nationalism that demanded a salute and “Heil Hitler.” This is not my America. This is not what makes America Great.
I have seen many veterans from WWII to the current wars express that although they might not agree with “taking a knee,” they fought for the right of these Americans to express themselves by taking a knee or holding arms in solidarity. If I was on the field, I too would link arms to support the freedom to protest or express our views. If these ball players were yelling or screaming, disrupting or trying to prevent the National Anthem from being played or sung, then that would be disrespectful. Instead, they are making a quiet protest – not against the flag or country, but against what they perceive as failures to live up to what ideals of their country is supposed to be about. They are showing their respect to those that want to sing the National Anthem.
I hold all the freedoms and rights for our Constitution, especially all those in the 1st Amendment dearly. Without any one of these, we do not have a free country. Because I am a patriot and love my country, I served in the Marine Corps, and now, when I see injustice or when we fail to live up to our ideals, I have the right and I do protest peacefully. I marched in NYC for the Women’s Movement in January, I have marched in Savannah, and I have participated in rallies on the Washington Mall, and in Atlanta. At all of these I have stood with veterans that feel the same as I do. We all look at this as a way to continue to serve our country and protect the Constitution.
I will never deny or belittle your feelings, please do same for me. That is why America has always been Great. We don’t need to Make America Great Again, it already is.
Semper Fidelis, Jim
(Photo taken at March for Immigrants Atlanta, Ga)
Wednesday, August 30, 2017
The world changed on 9/11. I knew it and so did everyone else in
That is why we remained glued to our television sets in the days following the
attack. It was horrifying to watch. We wanted to pull our eyes away from the
twenty-four news coverage but we couldn’t. We watched the raw footage of the
first plane hitting the north tower, and then we watched as a second plane flew
into the south tower. We watched as people leapt to their deaths from the
burning towers, like dolls falling. We watched as rescue crews geared up to
enter the towers. Then we watched in stunned incredulity as the towers buckled
and fell like two stacks of cards. We watched as the survivors, covered in the
dust from the debris, stumbled out of the gray ash. And we watched these images
over and over and over again. For days, for weeks we were glued to our
televisions, trying to incorporate the images we were seeing. American Airlines
Flight 77 crashing and exploding into the Pentagon. United Airlines flight 93 plunging
into a Pennsylvania
field, killing all on board; the passengers of Flight 93 having made a
courageous stand to prevent the plane from crashing directly into either the
U.S Capitol or the White House in D.C. We watched these images on a seeming endless
loop for days, for weeks, for months. We watched, not being able to pull our
eyes from the carnage. In the days following the attacks there was a subdued
silence as people attempted to process the images we had seen and what we had
experienced individually and as a nation. The symbols of our invincible
military and economic strength had been reduced to so much rubble. We were vulnerable and raw.
Tears were cried, not only for the thousands who died, but for ourselves and
and for the slowly dawning realization that our country had changed irrevocably
in the time it took for a late summer morning to pass. A few hours was all it
took. A few hours that stole our feelings of security, our belief that there
was somehow a magical golden shield around the United States that would forever
keep us removed from the chaos and violence of the rest of the world. We were
special. WE were the ones who marched
into other countries with our guns and our tanks, and WE were the ones who toppled buildings and killed enemies in far off
lands. There were certain unwritten rules, one being that wars do not travel to
the shores where the Constitution, Lady Liberty, and the ideals of democracy
We had persevered through World War II and walked out of the smoke and horrors as heroes of the world, the saviors. Later, in 1991 when the undeclared Cold War ended with the fall of the
Soviet Union, we exhaled. We
had survived it all intact. Our enemy had once again fallen and our safe,
cocooned notions took an even deeper hold on our collective psyche. We were
Americans. We were untouchable.
Then the morning of September 11, 2001 shook us awake. Our false perceptions about our safety and security were replaced with fear. Fear of people who resembled those responsible for 9/11, fear of those who prayed differently, fear of those who called God by the name “Allah”, fear of those who spoke a language that had become suspect to our ears, fear of those who dressed differently, fear of women with brown skin who wore head coverings. The fears took hold. Our fears caused us to start viewing more segments of people as “other.” Who were all these foreigners? They weren’t Americans. How did they get here? We envisioned some streaming unchecked across our borders. We imagined them murdering us in the streets, raping our women. Illegal immigrants were taking our jobs and stealing our tax money by enrolling their children in our schools and applying for government assistance meant for hardworking Americans, not some brown skinned Mexican from across the border.
As the economy lagged and suffered and the recession of 2008 engulfed us, and as poverty among Americans sharpened its teeth, we divided further into the “good” and “bad”, the “us” and “them.” Our racial divide of blacks vs whites once again reared its ugly head from the shadows of denial. Blacks were ruining our country with their gangs and their ghettos. Their rap music was violent. They were killing our police officers. This country had opened its arms to others and what had happened? We had been unjustly attacked on all fronts. White America was on the verge of extinction. Our culture was at stake. This was evidenced by
electing a black president. If he was leader of the free world didn’t that mean
that the free world’s power no longer rested in the hands of white males?
Didn’t that mean that power would have to be shared with people of different races,
religions, genders, and sexual preferences while America was gripped tight in the
fist of economic uncertainty? The apple pie must not be shared.
And out of that fear and uncertainty a lone man hit the American stage ready to take our country back to the good ole days where economic security reigned, where jobs were plentiful and white
was not threatened with being ousted from power. A country where “illegals”, no
matter their length of time in the U.S, no matter their contributions to our
country and economy, no matter if they had been brought into this country as
small children, would be booted from our country. A nation where access to the American Dream for "them" would be narrowed and walled. A country where religious freedoms would apply to everyone, except
for those who weren’t Christian. We would not allow crosses to be dismantled
from church steeples and Bibles thrown away, even though there had not been one
instance of this happening in America.
Many saw this lone man as a joke. A media diversion. A buffoon. From his bombast, verbose, and puzzling campaign he flipped from being openly pro choice to being anti abortion, from being an open Democrat to being a hard core Republican, to not showing any interest in religion to being a Christian that Evangelicals supported whole heartily. His sentences were word salads, his vocabulary limited, the points he attempted to make almost unintelligible, his ranting and ravings stirring violence at his campaign rallies: “So if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. Just knock the hell … I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. I promise” and “I don’t know if I would have done well, but I would have been out there fighting, folks. I don’t know if I’d have done well, but I would’ve been — boom, boom, boom. I’ll beat the crap out of you.”
His misogynistic attitude and name calling of women on Twitter became well known, “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America”, “Fox Viewers give low marks to bimbo @MegynKellyy will consider other programs”, and his public statements about his Republican rival Carly Fiorina were deplorable, “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next President? I mean, she's a woman, and I'm not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?" His now famous recorded-for-posterity, “I moved on her and I failed. I’ll admit it. I did try and f--- her. She was married…. And I moved on her very heavily... I moved on her like a b----, but I couldn’t get there." And it didn’t stop there. Karena Virginia accused him of groping her at the 1998 U.S. Open Tennis tournament, Summer Servos stated that he kissed, groped, and thrust his genitals at her (she has an open lawsuit against him), Jill Harth accused him of cornering and groping her in his daughter’s bedroom in 1997, Kristin Anderson said that in the early 90s he groped her while she was sitting next to him on a couch at a Manhattan nightclub, Natasha Stoynoff said that he assaulted her and pushed his tongue down her throat in 2005 while she was on an interview assignment for a magazine, Jessica Leeds emphatically insisted that he grabbed her breast and tried to reach under her skirt while on an airplane flight thirty years ago. But still
America ate him up like left over
cake batter. And then suddenly he wasn’t
a joke anymore. He was the leader of our country and he was taking us backwards, not forward.
Unshackled white supremacists and homophobes slithered out of their snake holes. The Empowered Evangelicals ratcheted up their condemnations of anyone who didn’t believe the Bible was the direct holy word of God, meaning of course, their word. The president put his stamp of approval on rounding up illegal immigrants like cattle, separating them from their families. He openly goaded one of the most unpredictable nations in the world, “
Korea best not make any more threats to the .
They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” He verbally
attacked his own cabinet appointees, " Why Didn't A. G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge Clinton..." He attacked the highly respected Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, railing that she was "an incompetent judge", "has embarrassed all by making dumb statements about me", and "her mind is shot ! Resign! United States
He pardoned a federally convicted sheriff for racial profiling just days before the sheriff was to be sentenced, and in doing so made a mockery of our justice system. He picked fights with the London Muslim mayor, Rosie O’Donnell,
China, , Kathy Griffin, and CNN. On his infamous
Twitter feed he threatened the city of Chicago, Mexico, Iran, and the
University of Berkley, to name just a few. He blamed “both sides” for the
violence in Cuba ,
even though only one group arrived looking for a fight, armed, and chanting racially
charged rhetoric. He verbally attacked members of his own party: House Speaker
Mitch McConnell, Senator John McCain, Senator Lindsey Graham, and Senator John
Flake. And he spends most weekends
away from the White House, even in times of crisis. Charlottesville
This billionaire real estate mogul who has filed for bankruptcy six times, been married three times, committed adultery on wife number one with wife number two, hosted a reality T.V show, and creates historical “facts” as they suit him (the plaque honoring a battle at one of his golf courses has been reputed by historians), and called the White House a “dump” is a direct consequence of America’s post 9/11 fears and uncertainties. He “tells it like it is” and he’s going to “Make America Great Again.” He has managed to pit mother against daughter, father against son, brother against sister, causing hurtful rifts within families.
When he took office he bragged that he was bringing “the best” with him, yet seven months later most of “the best” have either resigned or he has fired them. He fired FBI director James Comey, Attorney General Sally Yates, lead prosecutor for the
southern district Preet Bharara, Chief
Usher Angella Reid, and White Communications director Anthony Scaramucci. Many
more have resigned under a veil of suspicion of corruption or because they dared
to openly contradict him: National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, U.S Office
of Government Ethics Michael Dubke, Chief of Staff Reince Pribus, White House Communications
Director Sean Spicer, White House Assistant Press Secretary Michael Short, Special
advisor to the President on Regulatory Reform Carl Ichan, Deputy White House Chief of Staff Katie Walsh,
Director of the Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub, National Security Council
Senior Director Greg Deare, White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, National
Security aide Sebastian Gorka. The White House Manufacturing Council and the White
House Economic Advisory Council had such an influx of resignations after the president’s
comments about New York
that both councils were quickly disbanded. Charlottesville
The president has failed to appoint 384 of the 564 positions in his administration. These posts are sitting empty, being led by interim directors, or staffed by holdovers from the Obama administration. Our Commander in Chief is relishing his moment of power. He treats the office of the presidency like a reality television show, brags about crowds at his continuing rallies, boasts about how many people read and respond to his tweets, stays forefront in the media by acting out his outrageous unpredictable impulses and condemns any news media that doesn’t openly admire him and agree with him by labeling them "fake."
9/11 may have occurred sixteen years ago, but we are finally witnessing the apex and the long term consequences of that attack. The terrorists may have slammed airplanes into our buildings, but it is Americans who have taken it upon themselves to dismantle the precepts and ideals that the Founding Fathers laid out for
. America is not being
destroyed by outside terrorist, but rather inside by far extreme right
political and religious groups who encourage violence, separate Americans
into “us” and “them", attempt to bend our Constitution and our courts to
their will, ignore agreements with our allies, and attempt to
take away the civil rights of certain groups of people America
Back on September 11, 2001, watching as the towers fell and realizing that over three thousand people had been murdered, my heart cracked and I felt a knife twisting with the knowledge that this was the beginning of the end of the country I hold most dear. I never could have predicted or envisioned the path we would choose to take on November 8, 2016 that would ultimately lead to the destruction of ideals that have stood fast (sometimes only superficially) for two hundred and forty-two years. The glaring proof being played out right in front of my eyes, that my instincts were more correct than I could ever have guessed, does not give me comfort or validation. I wish my gut instincts had been wrong. God, I wish they had been wrong. America is on life support and fading fast.
Wednesday, February 1, 2017
You know I've been thinking, "When did I become so damn liberal?" then it dawned on me. I haven't become more liberal; the old Republican party just got so far right, so scared of the social changes taking place in our country, and so intolerant that it has made me seem like a liberal. I was this way my whole life. I have always voted, but I was pretty much a middle-of-the-roader. I didn't change.They did.
Oh,I think a lot of the far right coming out of the closet today have always had those dark corners of bigotry inside them, but they kept them hid away because it wasn't socially acceptable to bring them into the light. And as long as they kept those awful beliefs to themselves and didn't try to force them on others, in the way of actual law and policy, I pretty much followed the maxim, "Like and let live."
Now I seem like a raving political lunatic, when I'm really not. I just want everyone to be treated with respect, fairness, and equal representation under the law. No religion, no race, no gender, no sexual preference, no culture is better than any other. That's how I was raised., That is what I was taught. That is what I have always believed.
So, in order to stay true to those values I had to become this sign carrying, protest marching, letter writing, phone calling activist. If that's what it takes for me to stay true to myself, then so be it. I can't condone sugar coating rabid hate in unreasonable and histrionic fear. But make no mistake: l am pissed off. I now have less time to devote to reading and writing because I have to protest bullshit that should be a no brainier.
Peace out :)